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Class and Work Autonomy in 21 Countries: A Question of Production Regime or Power Resources?

Jonas Edlund and Anne Grönlund
Acta Sociologica
Vol. 53, No. 3 (September 2010), pp. 213-228
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25782138
Page Count: 16
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Class and Work Autonomy in 21 Countries: A Question of Production Regime or Power Resources?
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Abstract

Autonomy, or the extent to which employees can control their own work, is a central theme in debates on organizational flexibility and labour market stratification. Predictions of upskilling and autonomy, for manual workers too, have been a striking component in visions of post-Fordism and post-industrialism. The two main comparative labour market theories — the varieties of capitalism school and the power resources approach — suggest that both the level and the distribution of autonomy vary across production contexts, either because of national differences in skill requirements or because of the varying strength of organized labour. The objective of the article, based on the 2004 European Social Survey, is to test these two hypotheses by examining national variation regarding mean levels and class differences in autonomy among 21 countries. The main conclusion is that both mean levels and class differences in autonomy have much more to do with the strength of organized labour than with the skill requirements of production. The analysis also questions a central element of the varieties of capitalism theory, namely the notion of national production strategies based on differences in skill specificity.

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